The ATS is Dead, Long Live the ATS

I just read this article on The Failure of Automated Recruiting by an author we always enjoy reading at Fitzii, Liz Ryan. The article was forwarded to me by a business partner along with a question along the lines of “isn’t this bad news for you, Fitzii is after all an ATS right”?  – In summary, the article states that we should “throw in the towel on automated recruiting” and asks if it’s time “stop trying to prop up the ATS monster”?

Turns out, I agree with almost everything Liz lists in her article that is wrong with applicant tracking and automated recruiting today. In fact the problems with how the process works and how it treats applicants are exactly why we started Fitzii in the first place; out of a desire to make a difference and enable organizations to hire better and more objectively.

Some examples:

Keyword Searching – As Liz points out, this was never going to work: “We should have known better. We should have known that when we put in a job ad “The Selected Candidate must possess interpersonal, organizational and administrative skills” nearly every candidate — certainly every one with the intellect to connect the dots between our job ad and our hiring process – is going to put those very same keywords into his or her resume or job application. Once that happens, all the keyword-searching algorithms in the world can’t help us“.

Ironically, keyword searching is probably the #1 feature that we get told is “missing” from Fitzii (and, yes, we lose sales because of it). This is a challenge for us as we get the usefulness of the concept of being able to find all the applicants that have a specific skill or experience, however, it just doesn’t work well – applicants stuff the keywords, and with no context, the presence of a keyword alone doesn’t tell you anything useful. That’s why our tool assesses skills and experience based on specific responses to objectively what is needed for the role.

Talent Repelling Portals – Liz nails this one: “The best candidates, the ones who could help you the most, will be the first to flee a talent-repelling job application portal“.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to bring to mind the applicant horror stories we’ve heard. At Fitzii we treat job seekers as customers too and give them the same level of support and attention as our paying clients. We do this to protect our customer’s brands and reputations, but also because we strongly believe that applicants should be valued and treated with respect. There is no reason for the process to be painful, it’s often just old technology and inertia. We offer all applicants the option to rate and provide feedback on the process and use this to continually improve the candidate experience.

Zombie Job Ads – I included this one as I love the term and it’s sadly very common.  Again, the best applicants won’t be attracted by a dry ad with a list of requirements and responsibilities.

When hiring today, Marketing skills are just as important as recruiting skills and and well written job description can increase the quantity and quality of the applicants in your talent pipeline. There are no short-cuts to writing great job ads, they take time and effort. If you don’t have the skills within the HR department, you can also turn to your own marketing department or an external partner. We work closely with Hirefly, our sister company, which provides job profiling and job ad writing services to organizations that do not have the resources available internally.

Logical Gates – Liz suggests using “logical gates” to help the initial screening: “If this job sounds like a fit, send me a 300-word email message that tells me why, and be sure to share your comments on what we could do better in our online store”.

It’s almost like Liz has used Fitzii! We identified early on that cover letters add value in determining fit. The issue, however, is they are time-consuming to read (and to write) and as a result, are not suitable for the initial screening process. Instead, we added the “Impact Statement” which is a way for the applicants to provide a concise description of their main points of fit. The Impact Statement is displayed on every applicant’s Candidate Profile, which also contains details of the individual’s fit against the job skills & requirements, psychometric profile and working environment.

Tracking is Easy – This is the only aspect of the article I didn’t agree with. Liz says a common excuse given for using an older system is: “The government requires us to use our antiquated ATS” but “…that’s falseThe government couldn’t care less, as long as you keep track of the people you interact with, an easy thing to do”..

I’d argue that keeping track of any significant number of applicants is not easy. We have customers that receive hundreds of applicants per day and can get well over a thousand applicants for one position. Keeping track of more than a handful of applicants without some kind of automated application system is virtually impossible, or at least extremely time-consuming and definitely not a whole lot of fun. Not to mention the fact that Fitzii, and other systems allow companies to track their employee equity data and performance which is not only good practice, but also mandatory for certain organizations.

In summary, the ATS as most people know it, is guilty of crimes against good hiring and candidate experience and should be relegated to the scrapheap. The good news though is that there is a new generation of tools, like Fitzii, that achieve the dual benefits of enabling better, more objective hiring AND a vastly improved candidate experience that helps put the human back in hiring.